How Excel can save your business money

Earlier this week, this blog covered a story about how Microsoft Excel is costing your business millions of dollars, as well as a response by Matt Allington defending the popular spreadsheets. The basic takeaway is that the original piece has one solid point – Excel is static – and proceeds to back that up with inaccuracies or misunderstandings.

Our earlier post broke down Allington’s dissection of the piece and many of the main reasons why the original article was wrong. However, there is a second part to the argument that is quite interesting that we have not yet covered. While Excel will not cost your business millions, can it instead help create millions of dollars?

The short answer is yes, but it will take doing.

Know what tools you need

Allington makes the case that many organizations cost themselves money because of the belief that all of their problems are because of the tools. If you buy new, more powerful ones, everything will get better.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I can give you the most state of the art tools, but if you do not know how to make a chair, the constitution project will fail. However the flip side to this situation is that a talented and experienced carpenter can make a beautiful and functional pieces of furnature with the most basic of tool sets.

“My experience is that problems with existing BI solutions are related to ‘how’ the tools are used and deployed as well as problems with master data standards and reporting processes,” Allington wrote. “It is definitely true that high end BI tools have a significant and growing role in business, but they are not the only tools.”

He goes on to lay out several steps that organizations should take in order to get the most out of their Excel processes.

How Excel may increase your workflow’s effectiveness

  • Know what your business needs – If your company has basic data and reporting needs, spending a boatload of money on a fancy business intelligence system can be a waste of resources.
  • Why are current tools not working – This is where those in charge of the tools come under review. Is the problem the hammer or the carpenter?
  • Use Excel as a prototype to learn how your data works – Before snubbing Excel, give it a try. Use PowerPivot to build on the fly models for real-time information and see what comes of it.
  • Now determine if you need more – Once you know what Excel can do, do you really need to upgrade?

With the help of an Excel consulting firm any organization can determine if the spreadsheet is right for their business.